Deep in the River Yayabo
a manatee–shaped spirit hides.
On the Feast Day of Santiago
he grows legs, finds a horse, and rides. . .
The manatee gallops to town,
where he dances at the masked ball.
He wears a gold mask and gold crown.
He is gallant, graceful, and tall.
The next day, stars rain from the sky.
The manatee has to go home.
He grows his fishtail with a sigh,
and sinks into the river's foam.
He knows that when one year has passed,
once again he will wear his gold mask.
About the Author: Margarita Engle is a botanist and the Cuban–American author of three books about the island, most recently The Poet Slave of Cuba, a Biography of Juan Francisco Manzano (Henry Holt & Co, 2006), currently nominated as an American Library Association Best Book for Young Adults. Short works appear in a wide variety of journals, including previous issues of Journal of Mythic Arts. Current honors include a Pushcart Prize nomination, and semi–finalist selection for the Nimrod/Hardman Pablo Neruda Prize for Poetry. Margarita lives in California, where she enjoys hiking and helping her husband with his volunteer work for wilderness search and rescue dog training programs.
"The Dancing Manatee" copyright © 2007 by Margarita Engle. This poem may not be reproduced in any form without the author's express written permission.